With Whom are Many U.S. Police Departments Training? With a Chronic Human Rights Violator – Israel

TOPSHOT - Baltimore County Sheriffs officers gather after Baltimore Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. was acquitted of all charges in his murder trial for the death of Freddie Gray at the Mitchell Court House June 23, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. Goodson, who drove the van in which Freddie Gray, a young African American, was transported before he died was acquitted of all charges including second degree murder and manslaughter. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

TOPSHOT – Baltimore County Sheriffs officers gather after Baltimore Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. was acquitted of all charges in his murder trial for the death of Freddie Gray at the Mitchell Court House June 23, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

When the U.S. Department of Justice published a report Aug. 10 that documented “widespread constitutional violations, discriminatory enforcement, and culture of retaliation” within the Baltimore Police Department (BPD), there was rightly a general reaction of outrage.

But what hasn’t received as much attention is where Baltimore police received training on crowd control, use of force and surveillance: Israel’s national police, military and intelligence services.

Baltimore law enforcement officials, along with hundreds of others from Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, Arizona, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, North CarolinaGeorgia, Washington state as well as the DC Capitol police have all traveled to Israel for training. Thousands of others have received training from Israeli officials here in the U.S.

Many of these trips are taxpayer funded while others are privately funded. Since 2002, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs have paid for police chiefs, assistant chiefs and captains to train in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

These trainings put Baltimore police and other U.S. law enforcement employees in the hands of military, security and police systems that have racked up documented human rights violations for years. Amnesty International, other human rights organizations and even the U.S. Department of State have cited Israeli police for carrying out extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings, using ill treatment and torture (even against children), suppression of freedom of expression/association including through government surveillance, and excessive use of force against peaceful protesters.

Public or private funds spent to train our domestic police in Israel should concern all of us. Many of the abuses documented, parallels violations by Israeli military, security and police officials.

The Department of Justice report cited Baltimore police for using aggressive tactics that “escalate encounters and stifle public cooperation.” This leads, the report said, to use of unreasonable force during interactions for minor infractions, such as quality of life matters.  Furthermore, the report details how an overall lack of training leads to excessive force being used against those with mental health issues, juveniles and people who present “little or no threat against others,” such as those already restrained.

For years, Amnesty International has found Israeli military, security and police forces responsible for the same behavior.

In one case, a 28-year-old Palestinian man, not suspected of any crime except being present during a raid, was killed in what appears to have been an extrajudicial execution by Israeli forces, including an undercover police unit, during a raid on al-Ahli hospital in Hebron November 2015.

Eyewitnesses report that when Israeli forces entered the hospital room where the suspect was recuperating, they immediately shot his cousin. There was no attempt to arrest him or to use non-lethal alternatives before shooting him dead. This is one example among many.

There are also documented incidents of suppression of freedom of expression by Israeli police. For instance, journalists covering protests have been assaulted or shot. Individuals are also arrested for social media posts or for gathering to peacefully discuss the occupation. Police have harassed and arrested Israeli whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu repeatedly since he served his full sentence in 2004. Just this past July, Vanunu was in court for giving a news interview, moving (in the same building) without notifying police and for meeting with foreign nationals.

Another concern with the BPD is “systemic deficiencies” in “accountability structures”. Lack of accountability for human rights violations by Israeli forces and the environment of impunity that exists has been a long-standing concern with human rights organizations.

It is beyond dispute that there are some very serious human rights problems in U.S. policing, including in relation to the use of force and respect for equality of all before the law.

The people of Baltimore deserve better. The American public deserves better.  Baltimore and other police departments should find partners that will train on de-escalation techniques, how to handle mentally challenged or ill citizens, on the constitutional rights of citizens concerning filming and how to appropriately respond to those using non-violent protest to express their opinions. Israel is not such a partner.

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21 thoughts on “With Whom are Many U.S. Police Departments Training? With a Chronic Human Rights Violator – Israel

  1. Edith, you and Amnesty has done a tremendous job covering Israel and its actions. The video you link to is very powerful. (just this week I[m writing three young knife wielders have been shot.) A question is raised in this piece that I am very curious about. You say, and this has been repeated in many places, that Israeli police are teaching American police crowd control. However in the links you provide this is not corroborated. The links only talk about training in dealing with terrorism. Would you have other links to information regarding Israel teaching American officers crowd control, or use of force, and any particulars of those teachings? If possible, thanks!

  2. From what I understand, the French and German police force are also extremely efficient in calming down riots…where did they get their training from??
    The American police are well known for their impatience in dealing with traffic offences and other dealings with the public especially with the Hispanic community and black!!!.. obviously the mayor's office of each of the cities that sent representatives of the police and military knew full well what they were getting into..it was ok to send and get training from Israel that has to deal with terror on a daily basis!!! It's irrelevant whether the tactics or right or wrong…when someone is attacking you and your family with a knife or gun you don't suddenly say….mmmm is this the correct way to defend myself???

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